Welcome to Selfies With Food, my new (hopefully) fun blog segment where I prepare, eat, and take selfies with Depression Era recipes. Why would I do such a thing? Because my novel A Cup of Dust is set in Depression Era Oklahoma. Also because I like food. And selfies. And food. Did I mention that already?
She never stopped cooking up the wonderfully improvised dishes that were popular in the 1930s.
One of my very favorite meals Grandma Pearl tossed together was Goulash. When I think comfort food, I think of this, slow cooked and steamy hot.
Here’s what you need:
–3 or 4 medium carrots (don’t even think about using baby carrots…Grandma Pearl would question your sanity for paying extra for smaller sized carrots)
–1 or 2 onions (whatever you’ve got hanging out in the crisper)
–Lard (or oil…I used extra virgin olive oil…Grandma Pearl would have giggled about the virgin part)
–A couple cans of stewed tomatoes*
–A small can of tomato paste
–About a lb. of ground beef, browned
–Elbow macaroni (I used gluten free…Grandma Pearl would have told me to deal with the…ahem…gluten issues and buy the cheap stuff. Oh, Grandma)
–Salt and pepper to taste
–Feel free to add whatever else you’d like. Have green beans leftover from last night’s dinner? Toss ’em in! Got a potato eyeballing you? Chop up that bad boy and let him join the party. Have spaghetti sauce hanging out in the back of your pantry. By all means! Lighten your load. Depression Era cooking is all about using what you’ve got and making a meal stretch. Have fun.
Boil the pasta and set aside. Brown the meat (seasoned as you like). Set aside.
In a big old pot, sauté the onions and carrots (oh, dice them first, by the way) until they are softish (if you want to save time, use a can of carrot medallions). Add stewed tomatoes and tomato paste. Let them bubble. Add some spices if you’d like. If it seems like it’s getting dry, add a little broth.
When your veggies are soft, add the pasta and beef. Let them sit and simmer for as long as you like. The longer they simmer, the more the flavors mix and mingle. Give it a taste. If the tomatoes are a little too biting, add a pinch or two of sugar (to cut the acid). This is a good time to add a dash of salt or a smidge of garlic powder. Italian spices can also be a nice touch.
Stir every once in awhile to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of your pot. Also, take a nibble to make sure everything tastes the way you want it to. Add salt, pepper, etc.
By this point, your house should be full of the simmering aroma of cooking comfort food.
Serve it up with your choice of veggies, a slice of bread with butter, and a cup of cold milk.
I made this for my family last week for the very first time. I hate to admit it, but it wasn’t anywhere near as good as Grandma Pearl’s. Then again, she’d been making it many years before I came along. Still, even after a first attempt, my kids gave it 5 out of 6 thumbs up. Not too bad.
*Grandma Pearl peeled and cut her tomatoes, letting them stew all day with the other ingredients rather than crack open a can. Good for you, Grandma. I’m a little too lazy for that.
NOTE: If you’ve got grated parmesan cheese, sprinkle a bit on top. It’s so good!